Greyhawk: Return to the Classic
Great Kingdom of Aerdy
The Great Kingdom, or the Great Kingdom of Aerdy, refers to an empire that varied in size at various points in its history.
This tale begins more than twelve centuries ago, when Oeridian tribes wandering the vast central plains of Oerik beyond the Flanaess in the Far West were driven to the east by a series of raging conflicts that culminated in the infamous Twin Cataclysms of prehistory. These nomadic peoples were not very different, culturally speaking, from their neighbors the Flan, being superstitious, rustic, proud, and relatively primitive compared to the great empires of the Suel and Baklunish. Perhaps the proudest, most warlike, and powerful of these tribes were the Aerdi, their name meaning “sky people” in the old tongue. These clans worshiped powers of the Oerth and sky, and they read signs and portents in the heavens.
When the struggle between the Baklunish and Suloise empires threatened to engulf central Oerik, it was proclaimed that the destiny of the Aerdi and other Oeridians lay far to the east. So, 1,235 years ago, began the Great Migrations to which the modern reckoning of the Oeridians is dated. The tribes entered the Flanaess through the Fals Gap, where they first encountered the Flan. In time, the Aerdi arrived at the shores of the great eastern waters, their long journey at an end.
They named that vast ocean the Solnor (literally, “the birthplace of the sun”), and along its shores they founded a series of small states. These were largely tracts settled by individual noble houses of the Aerdi, such as the mystic Garasteth, the noble Cranden, the mercantile Darmen, the calculating Rax, and the militaristic Naelax. These small principalities accomplished little under their loose confederation, as they were individually unable to take on the Ur-Flan and Suel, so they quickly gathered under a single banner. In 428 OR (-216 CY), the scion of House Garasteth, Lord Mikar, became the first grand prince (equal to a king). He ruled a land now called the kingdom of Aerdy (“aer” meaning “sky” in Old Oeridian). The Aerdi made their capital in Rel Astra, and spent the next few decades conquering the neighboring Flan and driving the Suel to the south. Due to the cooperative effort of the various Aerdi tribes settling in the Flanmi basin, they expanded quickly. First they conquered the Flan’s crumbling kingdom of Ahlissa in the southwest, then swept north to contend with other Oeridian tribes who had settled the Flanaess behind them. During the reign of Grand Prince Almor II, the Rax Aerdi defeated their Nyrondese rivals in the Battle of a Fortnight’s Length (535 OR, or -109 CY). Aerdy almost doubled in size and thereafter became known as the Great Kingdom, now a true empire. It was the prudence of House Cranden that solidified the realm’s power structure over the next century. The Great Kingdom became a potent force for order and good in the Flanaess.
In the year 645 OR (l CY), Grand Prince Nasran declared universal peace in the empire, taking the new title of overking. Nasran was by all accounts a wise and dutiful ruler, and few openly begrudged him his claim. However, it quickly became clear to all the noble houses of the Aerdi that power in the Great Kingdom was being centralized in the hands of the rulers of Rauxes, and that the fortunes of the Great Kingdom would now rest with them. The needs and intrigues of the Celestial Houses would soon become subordinate to the politics of the Malachite Throne.
Nasran founded the See of Medegia and granted it to the faith of Palor. The Great Kingdom was quickly becoming too vast to effectively control from Rauxes, so the overkings appointed viceroys to rule the major provinces. The viceroys had near total autonomy within their realms to efficiently deal with local problems, answering only to the Malachite Throne. By 100 CY, there were four such viceroys. One in Zelradton administered South Province (awarded to House Cranden), and a counterpart in Eastfair controlled North Province (awarded to House Naelax). The empire’s borders had by now reached all the way to the Fals Gap and the mountainous Quaglands. Manshen, the first Rax overking, divided these marklands in 100 CY, forming two vast provinces around the Nyr Dyv, one in the east and one in the west. The Viceroyalty of Nyrond, which eventually included Urnst, was ruled from Rel Mord by a junior branch of House Rax. A viceroy in Dyvers administered the Viceroyalty of Ferrond, including its Northern Reaches (now Perrenland and lands north and northeast of the Vesve Forest).
The Great Kingdom reached its height over the next century under House Rax, with ambitious rulers such as the lines of Erhart and Toran. However, with the death in the spring of 213 CY of the Overking Jiranen, a sovereign who had reigned many years, succession became a matter of intrigue. His fatuous son Malev was uninterested in the office and proceeded to secretly auction it off to the highest bidder among his relatives. Malev did not care who took the throne, and it came as some surprise when his cousin Zelcor reportedly met his price. During Zelcor’s coronation in Rauxes later that year, an ominous sign appeared in the sky, a complete eclipse of the noontime sun above the capital. The Royal Astrologers proclaimed it as a great portent, confirming the sign of a coming Age of Great Sorrow prophesied by Selvor the Younger fifteen years earlier. Overking Zelcor promptly abolished the astrologers’ order for trying to recreate earlier hysteria and banished the members to Rel Astra. So proceeded an inexorable decline that began as the rulers of House Rax became progressively neglectful, decadent, or dimwitted. Provinces began calving off the empire like icebergs into the sea, beginning with Ferrond in 254 CY. Many noble and good Aerdi were expatriated by these secessions, leaving the heart of the kingdom to opportunists. By 356 CY, Overking Portillan could not even prevent his own cousin, the viceroy of Nyrond in Rel Mord, from breaking with the Malachite Throne and declaring his independence.
After the withdrawal of Nyrond from the Great Kingdom, the slide became precipitous. Buffoons and incompetents sat upon the Malachite Throne, and their mismanagement split apart the Celestial Houses. This period of degeneration culminated in the Turmoil Between Crowns, when the last Rax heir, Nalif, died in 437 CY at the hands of assassins from House Naelax. The herzog (great prince) of North Province, Ivid I, then laid claim to the throne.
The herzog of South Province, Galssonan of House Cranden, broke with Rauxes and joined a widespread rebellion in the south. Years of civil war ensued, and only the intercession of dispassionate houses such as Garasteth and Darmen brought about the final compromise. The tyrannical Ivid I assumed the Malachite Throne at the price of granting greater autonomy to the provinces, notably Medegia, Rel Astra, and Almor. The recalcitrant herzog of South Province was quickly deposed and replaced by a prince from House Naelax, who sought immediately to bring the southern insurgents back into line. In 446 CY, the herzog granted an audience to representatives of Irongate, who went to Zelradton to air their grievances. The offer turned out to be a ruse, and the ambassadors were imprisoned, tortured, and executed for Overking Ivid’s enjoyment. The whole of the south arose again in violent rebellion, and one year later formed the Iron League and allied with Nyrond.
The line of Ivid, comprising four more overkings, ruled the Great Kingdom for almost another century and half. They oversaw a fractured Great Kingdom, but they did so with iron fists and villainous glee. The Malachite Throne soon became known as the Fiend-Seeing Throne, and it was widely believed (with good reason) that the Ivid overkings consorted with evil outsiders. The faith of Hextor became the most prominent in the realm, and it laid claim to the See of Medegia, wresting it from the Zilchans who had held it for nearly two centuries after they had supplanted the Pelor.
The Great Kingdom saw a brief, violent resurgence during the reign of Ivid V, who assumed the Malachite Throne in 556 CY. Despite creeping insanity, he ably defended his realm from the combined forces of the Golden League (579-580) and civil unrest during the Red Death plague of 581. After years of political maneuvering and scheming, Ivid finally brought far-flung provinces together in an attempt to launch a great war to reestablish the former glory of the empire of the Aerdi. In 583 CY, Ivid launched an attack upon Nyrond, Almor, and the Iron League states, but the conflict served only to bring ruin to the heartlands of the Great Kingdom and destruction to many tens of thousands of citizens. Ivid made terrible enemies of his kinsmen. North Province declared independence from the Great Kingdom in 584 CY, dragging itself out of the Greyhawk Wars, and the empire shattered within weeks into many pieces.
The end came swiftly in 586 CY, when rivals for the throne, perhaps including the fiendish Duke Szeffrin of Almor, attacked the capital after hearing news indicating Ivid V had died or been deposed.
Rauxes fell victim to a vast magical conflict that left the city in ruins and submerged in a region of distorted magical force with unpredictable effects, the final fate of Ivid V, the rivals for the Malachite Throne, and Rauxes’s citizens remains unknown. All central authority gone, the provinces of Aerdy went their own ways.
The Great Kingdom arose from the Kingdom of Aerdy in -110 CY, when the Aerdi forces of Grand Prince Almor II defeated the Nyrondese in the Battle of a Fortnight’s Length. Aerdy nearly doubled in size, and was thereafter known as the Great Kingdom, though its ruler still held the old nationial title and office of Grand Prince. Despite the new moniker, power in the new empire would not become truly centralized until 1 CY, when Grand Prince Nasran I declared universal peace throughout the land and took the title of Overking of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy.
By the sixth century CY, however, the Great Kingdom had shrunk to a fraction of its size, limited to the lands east of the Harp River and Teesar Torrent, and north of the Iron Hills and Thelly River.
In 586 CY, Ivid V, last Overking of the Great Kingdom, was rumored to be dead after the devastation of Rauxes, the nation’s capitol. This essentially brought an end to the Great Kingdom. Two successor nations, the United Kingdom of Ahlissa and the North Kingdom of Aerdy, now vie for control of the region.